They may be from across the globe. But the four new members to this year’s faculty at Iowa State University’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering are coming to the Midwest for one goal: to solve challenging problems in modern engineering.
Ashley Buss, Assistant Professor
Do you get excited about a department of transportation internship? What about meeting infrastructure challenges for industry leaders? If you are Assistant Professor Ashley Buss, that is all right up your alley.
Buss studies materials engineering, focusing on sustainable pavement practices at Iowa State University’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. Raised in the Midwest, Buss first came to Iowa State as an undergraduate student to study civil engineering.
“I had some of the coolest internships ever,” Buss said, describing her work for the Clayton County Secondary Roads in Iowa. “You would get to a bridge,” Buss said, recalling how Clayton County engineering staff would work with her on-site.
“So [we’re] supposed to say how much this bridge carries,” they would ask Buss. “What do you think?’”
Buss saw the potential to solve important problems and address public concerns at the same time. That eye-opening experience kept her coming back to the CCEE Department. In 2010, Buss earned her master’s degree in civil engineering from Iowa State. And in 2014, she went on to earn her doctorate in civil engineering at ISU.
What keeps Buss returning to Iowa State University?
“I get to work with people from all over the world,” Buss said. “Just having those interactions at Iowa State, you have professors from everywhere. I always thought, ‘The world comes to Ames.’”
When she is not researching or advising students, Buss enjoys playing piano and jogging with her German shorthaired pointer. She lives in Ames with her husband, Joe, and their son, Zachary.
Bora Cetin, Assistant Professor
If you use roads, you have an interest in Bora Cetin’s research.
Cetin came to the CCEE Department in January 2016. He leads the Sustainable Geotechnical Infrastructure Group (SGIG), where he studies topics like the use of recyclable materials in roads and how that infrastructure holds up under long periods of use.
“Sustainability is a hot topic these days,” Cetin said.
He says that the study has changed dramatically from past years.
“The focus of the entire world shifted,” Cetin said. “How about if we can recycle all of the waste products to get the same solutions, the same performance that we can get from regular materials [used in civil engineering]?”
That is the question Cetin is answering with his research.
Cetin is from Eskişehirspor, Turkey. He completed his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Istanbul Technical University. He earned both a master’s degree and doctorate degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland. And it’s in Maryland where he met his wife and fellow CCEE Department faculty member, Kristen Cetin.
“She was doing her master’s, and I was doing my Ph.D. at the time. That’s how we got to meet,” Cetin said with a smile.
When the couple moved to Iowa, Bora knew the university was a good fit.
“I like working in the university environment,” Cetin said. “It’s always young, energetic … and I like producing stuff. My research is very practical. So whatever I do is very implementable by other agencies.”
Bora and Kristen live in Ames with their newborn daughter, Anka. Bora still roots for his hometown soccer team, and he runs in his spare time.
Kristen Cetin, Assistant Professor
For Kristen Cetin, research is all about application.
“I’m a very practical person,” Cetin admitted. “I need a purpose to do everything.”
Cetin found that purpose in her research at Iowa State University. She came to ISU in January 2016 as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. Here, she leads the Smart Building Research Group (SBRG).
If you are a homeowner, rent a building or apartment, or work in an office, you can relate to the questions Cetin is trying to answer. How do engineers find cost-efficient ways to reduce energy uses in buildings? What actions bring down the peak demand on electric grids during the dead of summer? How do all these changes reduce an environmental footprint? And how does it make life inside buildings more comfortable?
One of Cetin’s first experiences putting engineering skills to work was during her high school years. Every summer, she traveled to low-income areas and built housing. She soon realized that engineering could make people’s lives better.
“I need a purpose,” Cetin said, when asked how she chose her field of work. “I need some reason. I need some problem to solve. That’s why I’m an engineer, right? I like to work with my hands, but I like to have a problem to solve that motivates me to figure it out.”
Cetin is a busy person both in the CCEE Department and outside it. She is married to Bora Cetin, also an assistant professor with the department. The couple just had their first daughter, Anka, who keeps them very busy. In her free time, Cetin likes to rock climb and run.
Kaoru Ikuma, Assistant Professor
Ask Kaoru Ikuma about her work, and there’s no question where her interest lies.
“Micro-organisms are the powerhouses of everything out there,” Ikuma said. “And it’s fascinating!”
Ikuma studies environmental microbiology and biotechnology at Iowa State University in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. Cleaning oil spills, purifying water supplies, or maintaining healthy soil systems? Ikuma says microbes could be utilized to solve all these challenges.
“Now that everyone is talking about sustainability, the lines are becoming more open for us to say, ‘Look, we need to talk about this before it even happens,’” Ikuma said, explaining how environmental engineering could be used to mitigate problems early.
Ikuma is a Japanese citizen, but spent her childhood in both Japan and the U.S. She earned two bachelor’s degrees in biology and biochemistry from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).
She continued at Virginia Tech for her master’s degree in environmental sciences and engineering. But when it came time to get her doctorate, this detailed researcher wasn’t sold on the idea.
“I was actually really not sure about my Ph.D., because I [thought], ‘Why would I want a Ph.D.?” Ikuma questioned.
Then, Ikuma found a passion for helping students succeed.
“I started getting into mentoring, and I realized that I loved mentoring,” Ikuma said. “To do mentoring and teaching and research? This is the job.”
Outside of teaching and research, Ikuma loves taking care of her cat, Sunny. She also enjoys reading and running in her free time.
To see more about our faculty, visit our faculty/staff web page.